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Government receives feedback for proposed sleep apnea rule

The federal government has received almost 600 comments in response to its request for public feedback on a proposed rule to study obstructive sleep apnea among transportation workers in West Virginia and nationwide. If passed, the rule will allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration to regulate the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea for truck drivers and railroad workers in high-risk positions.

According to an FMCSA-sponsored study by the University of Pennsylvania, 28 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause frequent breathing interruptions during sleep. If left untreated, the condition can lead to drowsiness or inattentiveness during waking hours.

Many commentators said they felt it was wrong for the government to force transportation workers to pay for expensive sleep apnea tests and treatments. Others suggested the FMCSA amend its hours-of-service rules to allow drivers to take naps without reducing their on-duty time. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it opposes the proposed rule until the government can prove sleep apnea causes a "not-insignificant number of crashes." However, a woman whose father died when a sleepy truck driver crashed into the rear of his car thanked the FMCSA for attempting to address the issue of sleep apnea.

West Virginia residents who are injured by a fatigued truck driver may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver and their trucking company. If the lawsuit is successful, an injured victim could receive a financial settlement that covers medical expenses, lost wages and other related damages. If someone is killed in a truck crash, their family has the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit for funeral expenses and other losses.

Source: Safety and Health, "Potential rule on sleep apnea yields strong praise, harsh criticism" Tom Musick, Sept. 15, 2016

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